In recent years, many Christians have become familiar with the story of Louis Zamperini, the Olympic runner who came to Christ after several harrowing years in a Japanese POW camp. Unbroken, the film about his life, is set to release everywhere in theaters this Christmas. Crosswalk was privileged to interview Louis’s son, Luke Zamperini, about the upcoming film and learn more about how his father’s journey to faith would be portrayed onscreen.
How familiar were you with your father’s story before this movie?
I was very familiar with my father’s story. His story was the subject of my bedtime stories growing up, and I spent a lifetime going with him to meetings where he would tell his story over-and-over again. He had a sixteen-page comic book telling his story back in the 1950’s that I still have a copy of. Plus, his book was first published in 1956. So, I’ve been very familiar with his story and it is getting even more familiar now having Unbroken come out. Laura Hillenbrand was able to bring even more to the story other than my father’s perspective about the endeavor.
One of the things I noticed about the book is that it’s broken into different stages of your father’s life. Does it focus on anything in particular, or does it give everything equal credence?
Well, my father’s life is like a five-act play. A two-hour-and-seventeen-minute movie is only going to cover about three acts, so the great challenge for the filmmakers was, “how much of the story do you tell?” “What parts do you focus on?” and “How do you get the complete message across?” I think they did a wonderful job. The film ends when he gets home from the War. It did not dramatize the PTSD, the Christian conversion, and the going back to Japan to forgive his captors. It used titles to explain what happened to him after that, but these themes of faith and forgiveness are still woven in throughout the film. In my opinion, she (Angelina Jolie) did a masterful job. When I asked people what they came away with, their response was always, “How could he forgive them?”
Obviously your father’s story has a special place in the heart of Christians because it’s a very powerful message about forgiveness and seeking God. So, you believe Unbroken lives up to that message?
Yes, I really think it does. Would I have liked to see every part of his life depicted in all detail, including the Billy Graham meeting in the canvas cathedral? Yes, but then it would be a five-hour movie and we’d be losing audiences. Again, the challenge for the filmmakers is, “How do you tell this story in just two hours?” And I really think they did a great job. It’s gorgeously shot, just beautiful, and the soundtrack is mesmerizing, it takes you on this beautifully told journey of a grim adventure, and it ends on a positive note. Certainly the faith and forgiveness hit you at the end.
You mentioned that you thought Angelina Jolie did a great job with the film. Did you get to meet her or any of the other actors?
Yes, we met Angelina right in the beginning when she first got the nod to do the film. She came over and met my dad and the entire family. We celebrated his 96th birthday with her and her husband. All the key actors were brought over to the house to sit down and talk with my dad. He told them all about his adventures and the people they would be playing, including Miyavi, who played “The Bird.” The director, the producer, the actors, were all very emotionally involved in this project because they got to meet the man himself. He’s still impacting people’s lives.
What did you most hope to see come out of Unbroken?
The power of faith and forgiveness. From what I can tell, viewers are walking away from this film thinking about that. To me that was very important. We’ve been praying for years to see this story come to the big screen, and for a director with a passion for this story, and boy did we get it. I just believed God’s hand was on this project and it would be told in a way that would affect the most people.
For more on Unbroken and the life of Louis Zamperini, stay tuned for our text and video reviews at CrosswalkMovies.com.